‘Man has closed himself up, till he sees all things thro’ narrow chinks of his cavern’

From ‘His sense of exile’ by William Blake. The whole poem goes thus:

‘I am like an atom, a nothing left in darkness,
And yet I am an identitiy.

They told me that I had five senses to close me up,
And the enclosed my infinite brain into a narrow
And sunk my heart into the Abyss…
Till all from FLie I was obliterated and erased.

Man has closed himself up, till he sees all things
thro’ narraow chinks of his cavern.

If the doors of perception were cleansed every thing
would appear to man as it is, infinite.’

At the recent conference in Wrexham on Excellence in Narrative Practice
there was considerable reflection on the role of the narrative interviewer and their relationship with the interviewee. And then on what to do with the transcription and analysis of materials. This is a huge area and not an easy one. In different work on oral histories with the founding brothers of the Islamic Development Bank, lessons learned and governance of futures and horizon scanning research at Defra, enquiry into merger culture, and into the customer experience at HMRC, we’ve grappled in many different ways with the casting of the interviewer and with the analysis of resulting materials. I’ll write more on this as a subject over time, but simply wanted to record today a metaphor for the role of the enquirer/witness that struck me in one talk. The researcher described herself as feeling like an amateur archaeologist in sifting through the materials. For many old fragments of artefacts, you need to have some idea of the overall shape of what you are looking for to stand any chance of recognising it among the rubble. And all the same, you must keep an open mind and a keen eye to discern things and possibilities you may not have had in mind. So you need to be both open and closed minded in reviewing the assembled materials.

This reminds me of the end 17th point in Quaker Advices and Queries:

‘Think it possible that you may be mistaken.’


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