Governing a large state is like boiling a small fish.
The state that I’m most responsible for is myself. This directly effects how I govern my external responsibilities. As I mature and become more gentle and patient with myself I likewise do so in my interactions with the world.
It is easy to fall into rushing. The desire to get things done pushes me to ‘turn up the heat’ and force the issue. I focus on the ‘end’ and go too fast to notice the Way (the means to the end). I trade off the Joy of doing for the promised joy of a fleeting success. I rush to get the fish cooked when I forget what I really want out of my life.
When the empire is ruled in accordance with the way,
The spirits lose their potencies.
Or rather, it is not that they lose their potencies,
But that, though they have their potencies, do not harm the people,
It is not only they who, having their potencies, do not harm the people,
The sage, also, does not harm the people.
As neither does any harm, each attributes the merit to the other.
I don’t know much about any worldly political empire. For me empire symbolizes the billions of body cells out of which arise the full range of my existence: physical, emotional, mental and spiritual.
The spirits within me are the various facets of my personality. These give direction to my desires and give me those characteristics which are unique to me. My spirits harm me when they rule my life, which occurs when I have no deeper sense of purpose—when my life isn’t ruled in accordance with the way. I get lost in the chaos of myriad spirits pushing and pulling me this way and that.
When the spirits are making my life miserable, I blame them for the harm they cause. In truth, though, it is not the spirits that are the primary cause. Their rampage is only a symptom of a life NOT ruled in accordance with the way. The spirits become scapegoats and I waste my energy faulting them.
Spirit and ‘spiritual’ are opposite to ‘material’. ‘Material’ is very concrete and easily defined, which, almost by definition must leave spirit as symbolic of what is intangible and hard to define. It even comes close to ‘Spirit that can be named is not true spirit’.
I think of spirits as that which lies at the root of what haunts me in daily life. This haunting takes form as various insecurities and fears, urges and obsessions. Without a deeper anchor, these spirits fling me this way and that, in something like a vicious circle. I can only break this cycle of pre-conception by returning to the deep. The difficulty in this lies in that this ‘deep’ is even more intangible than the spirits. There is nothing that I can hold on to, and so must maintain a constant moment to moment returning. I must rule (my) empire in accordance with the way, (for) the spirits (to) lose their potencies.
Like empire, sage is symbolic of my inner reality. It may be more than just my consciousness, but not by much—maybe it is my sense of self-ness. It is very much like the spirits in its intangibility—they are almost brothers. And, like brothers, they bicker and wrestle for control over my ‘being’. This constant inner struggle is only diminished when my inner sage takes the lowest selfless position.