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. - Ursula Vernon
*It’s a good thing humans don’t speak Bird, or else we probably wouldn’t find these bloodthirsty paeans nearly so charming.