What are the metaphors and key concepts in Tao Te Ching #60? What are some real-life examples that connect to the concepts?

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Tao Te Ching is a Chinese text that forms part of the foundation of Taoism. It is divided into 81 short chapters.

The main metaphor used in chapter 60 is the small fish: “Ruling the country is like cooking a small fish.” Cooking a small fish is not easy, as the fish could burn if left too long in one position, likewise parts of it might remain uncooked if the cook does not pay careful attention to it. A burned fish, just like an undercooked fish, would not be pleasant to eat. Likewise, if one were to rule a country without the necessary focus and balance, there would be negative consequences, too. This is why the text points out that it is important to approach the “universe with Tao”: Tao, the balanced way of life, is absolutely crucial in order to lead a successful life or, indeed, to be a successful leader.

In real life, an example for this might be a government which mainly strives to appeal to the rich. For example, by trying to appease rich people by lowering their tax thresholds, a government would significantly decrease the amount of public money available to fund the support of the poor. This would lead to the poorer citizens feeling neglected and ignored. Therefore, if this imbalance were not to be addressed by the government, then this could possibly lead to civil unrest in the long run.

In order to be balanced, a government needs to ensure that it cares for the needs of everyone, not just certain social groups. By maintaining this sense of Tao, a government has a greater chance at being successful.

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