The Dour Brotherhood of Quantitative Sorrow was founded three hundred years ago by the Archprimate Lithwick, who taught that misery is visited upon mankind by the gods, and, more importantly, they have a quota.
If the quota is met, then the gods have no cause to go visiting anything beyond the regular sorrows upon the world, and things can proceed smoothly. But if the deadline is rolling around, and the enormous heavenly lake in which the tears of mankind are gathered is running dry, the pilings of grief are showing above the waterline and the shores of sorrow are covered in the beached crabs of mild dismay—well, then the gods panic and wreak havoc upon the world, in the form of fire, flood, famine, or whatever else seems like a good idea at the time.
The goal of the Brotherhood, therefore, is to make sure that Heaven makes its quota, and to this end, they suffer extravagantly, morosely, and as visibly as possible. They wear uncomfortable, itchy clothes, always in blue, because blue is the color of sorrow, and eat terrible, overspiced meals that cause indigestion and the trots. They meditate upon the suffering of the world, in unheated cells, and sleep on unfinished pine boards. They stand absolutely still for prolonged periods of time, which doesn’t sound bad unless you actually try it for an hour or so. They wail. Good god, do they wail.
The attention of spring-maddened bluebirds, driven to frenzies by what appear to be hundreds of GIANT RIVAL BLUEBIRDS, is just one of the job hazards. Of course, when a bluebird is standing on your head singing furiously*, sometimes you just gotta smile, which is why somebody in this painting is about five minutes from losing his job.
Mixed media, still fooling with oil pastel on clayboard, 12 x 24. This one took awhile, and was mostly a compositional experiment--I wanted to do something in monochrome, with a single complimentary color and see if it worked as the focal point. While I like the painting, I was surprised to find that the bright orange breast on the bluebird doesn't draw the eye nearly as much as I expected a splash of orange in the middle of all that blue to do. Possibly the central figure just dominates it too much. I dunno. Still, if we knew how experiments came out beforehand, we wouldn't try 'em in the first place.
Unrelated, I found myself writing rather more about the Dour Brotherhood, and the fate of that one unfortunate grinning brother than I normally do. Maybe someday more of it'll see the light of day...
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*It's a good thing humans don't speak Bird, or else we probably wouldn't find these bloodthirsty paeans nearly so charming.