[Jandek] The Ruins of Adventure

Shervin Fatehi fatehi at berkeley.edu
Wed Mar 14 03:07:39 PDT 2007


Something that occurred to me while listening to the eponymous song:  
Jandek mentions a "cloud of unknowing." This seems to me like a  
relatively obvious reference to the Christian mystical work of the  
same name, which also appeared as a focus for one of the characters  
in Don DeLillo's book Underworld.

I read the book a long time ago now. The key notion (insofar as I  
recall) was that we are separated from God by a cloud of unknowing --  
not "unknowing" in the sense that it's impossible to make contact  
with and commune with Him (I capitalize here by convention, despite  
being an agnostic), but in the sense that we can't use our rational  
mind and our normal modes of knowing to penetrate it. We are meant  
instead to direct our loving feelings toward God, since they are able  
to pierce the cloud and allow for some kind of divine back-reaction,  
filling us with Divine love.

If you want to look into it, I remember the William Johnston  
translation being pretty good. The Wikipedia article has some more  
information, natch:


This is probably less significant than it seemed to me at first  
blush, especially given the contextual clues that suggest he's  
wielding the idea a little more personally / cynically, but it seems  
to fall into the thread of offhand mysticism Jandek's been drawing  
out for quite a while. He really seems to hit all the bases as far as  
mystical traditions go -- whether Christian or more Eastern -- but,  
then, so did Thomas Merton...


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