Is this historical novel a dystopia?
It comes close to being one, for the cloistered canaries are us in the only home we have, planet Earth. In our lives, we all face many challenges, uncertainties, confusion, and victimization without knowing it as polluters continue to burden society by releasing more toxins into the air. As proverbial canaries in the coal mine, we want clean air to breathe so that we can live healthy lives. But when we are exposed to air pollution, expect the unexpected – diseases that remain elusive as greedy corporations manipulate government policies so that these preventable diseases can remain unspecified. This is the backdrop of the novel as the characters search for means to survive in an unpredictable world.
Data from the World Health Organization (WHO) shows that 9 out of 10 people breathe air containing high levels of pollutants. An estimated 6.5 million premature deaths (1 out of 9 people) globally are linked to ambient air pollution, mainly from heart disease, stroke, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, lung cancer, and acute respiratory infections in children. In addition, household air pollution (for example, volatile organic compounds (VOC) in personal hygiene and household products) is one of the leading causes of disease and premature death in the world. Over four million deaths are attributed to household air pollution annually. For example, fifty percent of pneumonia deaths in children under five are due to household air pollution. This is just the tip of the iceberg.
The novel introduces the reader to many characters described in a forthcoming blog and to alchemy – an ancient branch of natural philosophy, a philosophical and proto-scientific tradition that was pursued throughout Europe, Africa, Asia Minor, and Asia. Alchemists have attempted to purify, to develop, and to perfect certain materials in pursuit of prolonging longevity if not immortality. The practical aim of alchemy was to discover a cure for disease so as to extend life. Modern alchemy, however, takes place in illegal and legal drug laboratories: for example, opioids that include organic heroin or synthetic opioids such as fentanyl; prescribed pain relievers such as oxycodone (OxyContin®), hydrocodone (Vicodin®), codeine, morphine, and many others.
The notion of purifying our mind stream to reach enlightenment, the original alchemy, was lost in translation. From a focus of attaining supra-consciousness, the focus became converting base metal into gold. The story touches on another form of alchemy practiced today – manufacturing synthetic chemicals to replace what nature had produced in synchronicity with diverse life forms.
Since December 2019, the world has been faced with the Coronavirus (COVID-19) that has become pandemic. No one knows for sure the origin of the virus. The prevailing theory is that COVID-19 originated from a diseased wild animal while conspiracy theorists want us to believe it is a deliberate scheme by a nefarious laboratory seeking to blame government as a way to reduce the world’s population. The latter hyperbolic theory reminds me of a dog looking at where the bone is thrown instead of a lion looking at who threw the bone. As citizens on planet Earth, we need to look at who is throwing the bone to identify the source of these problems.
Notwithstanding, the saying, “the end justifies the means,” is not always justifiable. Good and moral acts (generated by good intentions) are those that contribute to the greatest amount of happiness and the least amount of suffering for the greatest amount of people. In other word, the “end justifies the means” when the moral gains of the ends are greater than the moral losses by the means (ethical altruism). Anything else is to say that, if the end is important enough to overrule any legal or moral limits (ethical egotism), it will have consequences detrimental to the welfare of others.
Let’s pay it forward for the benefit of others. It may mean consuming less and consuming consciously or other forces will be making the choices for you. Or at least, consuming consciously.
Overall, Choir of Cloistered Canaries is about love.