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You are looking at a bowl of apples on a kitchen table, intent on eating one. You are looking for an apple. Other than a few differences in quality, they are all apples. But when looking through all those apples, with their commercial stickers, talking about Washington State or New Zealand or Chile, you flip to an unstickered apple, and realize it was one grown on a tree in the yard. In fact, you picked it yesterday. Instead of being a generic apple, it is now a specific apple, with a specific story. You remember it coming off the tree, remember scrambling in the dirt to get it. Suddenly, this generic example of "apple" has shown itself to be something else, an example of something with a specific story.

You and a friend are studying a book together. You both have different copies of the same book. Perhaps they have different covers, different forewords or introductions, but they are the same book. The foremost thing about them is the text, and things like whether it has a stamp from a certain used bookstore have no part in that. But then your friend flips to the front page and notices something he has not noticed before: it is autographed, and suddenly it becomes not just a copy of the book, but an object that had its own history, and was touched by the author.

Both of these objects had their level of being shifted. It is hard to say what exactly it means for a thing to have "being", because "being" is so general that everything has it. Objects, entities, persons, concepts, our own minds: they all have "being". This is my summation of the basic philosophy of Martin Heidegger: since "Being" is such an everpresent thing, we forget about it, and then "remember" it by ways that it flashes through in specific situations. And so it is with the Beings we encounter: things have specific type of Being, which are sometimes changed suddenly. What is the difference between "type of Being" and just plain "conceptual framework"? Well, I will leave that to the judgment of the reader, whether this means anything or is just mystical language games. For me, though, the idea came to me naturally, as a way to explain how I brought different parts of the world into focus, or out of focus. One of the best ways to describe it is how I relate to Place and Space. For many people, the world is a collection of discrete, often socially delineated places, with the connecting space between them a vague, if not threatening expanse. But once I take the chance to physically move through that space, the "physical space" gains ontological priority in my mind, with the social space then taking a role as a derived reality. Another example is in how music is perceived in various cultures. In classical music, if you have a symphony, the written music, the idea of the perfect performance, has ontological priority. We have the concept of Beethoven's Ninth Symphony and every specific performance is secondary to that. (Unless, of course, you are a proud parent watching your child's first concert). In another genre, such as jazz, hip-hop or certain forms of rock'n'roll, there is nothing "behind" the performance. The performance, the moment of interaction and creation, has the ontological priority, and an attempt to record it or delineate it will only provide something of secondary Being. And so it is with many things: is our ontological priority, our closest approach to the mystery of Being, found in the individual, or in society? is it found in the past, present or future? Is it found in actuality, or potentiality? Is the Being in the process, or in the result? Is a text's reality found in the intent of the author, or in the experience of the reader?

As we go through the world, we shift our focus around us, in ways both profound and minor, often without having a chance to think about why. A group of houses are background we walk by every day, until we realize that each one is lived in by a person with a history. Perhaps the horizons of your life suddenly shrink, the normal becomes hazardous, and a trip to the supermarket is treated like an expedition into Chernobyl. A person who you thought of in terms of comradeship and easy rituals now has to be judged by the standards of their ethics. Things shift. Perhaps it is psychological, just a matter of preference and attention, but for me, for whatever reason, I think of it in terms of the inexplicable fact that we are swimming in a sea of Being, and only occasionally do we see flashes of how that Being is revealed.

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