Patrick Meier keeps a spectacular blog called iRevolution. A few weeks back, he had this great post Failing Gracefully in Complex Systems: A Note on Resilience - that has this quote from the scholar Thomas Homer-Dixon about "the middle ground between dangerous rigidity and catastrophic collapse":
In our organizations, social and political systems, and individual lives, we need to create the possibility for what computer programmers and disaster planners call ‘graceful’ failure. When a system fails gracefully, damage is limited, and options for recovery are preserved. Also, the part of the system that has been damaged recovers by drawing resources and information from undamaged parts.
Breakdown is probably something that human social systems must go through to adapt successfully to changing conditions over the long term. But if we want to have any control over our direction in breakdown’s aftermath, we must keep breakdown constrained. Reducing as much as we can the force of underlying tectonic stresses helps, as does making our societies more resilient. We have to do other things too, and advance planning for breakdown is undoubtedly the most important.
Our world feels littered with catastrophic collapse - from institutions like the Catholic church to natural disasters to a world economy built on things that ended up being a bit too derivative.
My own interior life has its own share of dangerous rigidity and collapse that feels catastrophic. I am a pack rat in the house of fear I have built, brick by brick - I have my own failures categorized and filed away so I can find them whenever the mode strikes. I cling to models of rigid rights & wrongs - I too often mistake silent decay or transition for collapse.
I can see this ability to build resiliency, to weave together into communities, to strive for integration rather than perfect. No rigid pillars, no collapse that ruins all - rather, a path to a graceful failure, one that does not tear at the fabric of our identity.