Electricity

David Cowles

Nov 15, 2021

“The Electrical Life of Louis Wain” is a movie currently playing on Amazon Prime. Louis is an early 20th century English painter with zero artistic merit…but that’s not important. What is important is the way Louis experiences the world.

From time to time, he encounters the ineffable in the course of his everyday living. He imagines that what he is experiencing is a form of ‘electricity’ that permeates the world but lies beneath the plane of ordinary sensory perception.

Many of us have had a similar experience; but I doubt if any of us called it “electricity”. In my day, it was fashionable to call it “energy”; Star Wars called it “the force”. I wonder, what’s the current nom de jour?

The ineffable is the ineffable because it is…well, ineffable. It is the ‘immanence of transcendence’ in our everyday world. If we must name it, we must name it metaphorically. It is, after all, ineffable.

In classical times, it might have been called “beauty”; in the middle ages, “God”. But to Louis Wain, it is “electricity”. How come?

Louis Wain lived in the final days of a dark age ironically known as The Enlightenment. Though long past, it still casts a shadow. The Enlightenment was rooted in materialism and mechanism and in the certain belief that technological progress would inevitably bring about Utopia. So “electricity” was the closest anyone of that era could come to naming the ineffable.

We know better today; but we are still struggling to find our own metaphor for the immanence of transcendence in the world.

“The Electrical Life of Louis Wain” is a movie currently playing on Amazon Prime. Louis is an early 20th century English painter with zero artistic merit…but that’s not important. What is important is the way Louis experiences the world.


From time to time, he encounters the ineffable in the course of his everyday living. He imagines that what he is experiencing is a form of ‘electricity’ that permeates the world but lies beneath the plane of ordinary sensory perception.


Many of us have had a similar experience; but I doubt if any of us called it “electricity”. In my day, it was fashionable to call it “energy”; Star Wars called it “the force”. I wonder, what’s the current nom de jour?


The ineffable is the ineffable because it is…well, ineffable. It is the ‘immanence of transcendence’ in our everyday world. If we must name it, we must name it metaphorically. It is, after all, ineffable.


In classical times, it might have been called “beauty”; in the middle ages, “God”. But to Louis Wain, it is “electricity”. How come?


Louis Wain lived in the final days of a dark age ironically known as The Enlightenment. Though long past, it still casts a shadow. The Enlightenment was rooted in materialism and mechanism and in the certain belief that technological progress would inevitably bring about Utopia. So “electricity” was the closest anyone of that era could come to naming the ineffable.


We know better today; but we are still struggling to find our own metaphor for the immanence of transcendence in the world.

Have a thought to share about today's 'Thought'.png