The choiceless mode of relating to meaningness has no “becauses.” In the systematic mode, when you ask “why,” a system answers “because…”. The “becauses” hang together in ways that make everything make sense. In the choiceless, or pre-systematic mode, that’s not necessary—or even conceivable.
In the choiceless mode, you know of only one way of understanding meaningness. You are unaware of any alternatives. In fact, you are also unaware of your own understanding; of the possibility of alternatives; and of your lack of awareness.
In a choiceless culture, no one asks “why?” about meanings, and so there is no “because” needed to answer. Asking doesn’t occur to you. Meaning is a given: inherent in people and things. Water rats are tasty; there’s no point asking why. You marry your mother’s brother’s daughter; to marry your father’s brother’s daughter would be an abomination; you do not think to ask why.
In a choiceless society, you are defined by your social position. You are the son of so-and-so, and belong to the eagle clan—as your father, the clan chief, did. When he died, your elder brother wore the eagle clan hat at the wake. If your brother dies before you, you will wear the clan hat. Like all eagles, you are an enemy of the horse clan and allied to the bear clan. You knew from the age of five that you would marry your mother’s brother’s daughter. This is your self; this is who you are.
In a choiceless culture, art follows forms handed down through legitimate peripheral participation plus some oral explanation. The forms are unquestioned; they are simply as they are. Making art (in the broad sense—music, stories, clothing) is a communal activity. There is no sense of authorship, or originality as a value.
All of this is just how it is; there is no “because” available.
Two years ago, well into a mainly happy marriage, you began a secret affair.
The attraction was overwhelming. The sex was scalding. You loved with a passion you had never felt before.
Your lover—also married—understood parts of you that your spouse did not. You were able to be a different person. You explored aspects of your personality that you had never been able to express before. You made different sorts of jokes. You went on adventurous dates, trying things your spouse—who you knew was sweet but a bit dull when you got married—would never have agreed to do.
After a year and a bit, the passion waned. Your secret meetings began to feel slightly repetitive. You found that your personalities would not be compatible in the long term. You wanted quite different things out of life.
It began to seem you were going through the motions. You had one meaningless fight about nothing. Then you discussed the future, and agreed to end the affair on good terms.