60A Vane Attempt

"Don't Need a Weatherman To Tell Which Way the Wind Blows" 

A Series of Innocuous Blogs for Vainglorious Edification.

"Too many teardrops for one heart to be cryin'
Too many teardrops for one heart
To carry on
You're gonna cry ninety-six tears…
? and the Mysterians
Too Many Teardrops
June 25, 2009

It is with admitted irreverence we awoke recently to speculate that had heretic and Reformation leader Martin Luther coughed up just one more thesis, the famous document he nailed to the door of the church in 1517 could’ve been called 96 Theses.  This would have secured our proposition that the 1966 pop song “Ninety Six Tears” by ? (Question Mark) and the Mysterians, was in fact a veiled reference to Luther’s spiritual revolution.  How delicious would it be to invite the deeply pious Luther to a Mysterians paisley clad, pot smoking, pop party?  Talk about religious indulgences.

Bizarre though it seems, there is a connection of spirit between the free-loving attitudes of the 1960s pop culture and the spirit that began the Reformation of the Church nearly five hundred years ago.  Luther was a devoted monk toiling away in the monastery of the small German town of  Wittenberg, when he first found fault with the relics of Rome.  A trip to the seat of the Roman Catholic empire convinced him that the church had become hopelessly corrupted in its pursuit of power and wealth.  He took particular exception to the sale of “indulgences” - Get Out of Hell cards - issued by the Church under Papal authority to ostensibly free one from purgatory.  Luther saw, as Jesus did when he ransacked the temple, the raising of money under the guise of godliness, a perverse corruption of divine intent.

And so the good monk in a fit of pique wrote out 95 Theses - not actually theses in all, rather consecutive complaints about the behavior of the Church and its indulgences.  On the evening of October 31, 1517 Luther nailed them to the door of the Castle Church in the village square.  In the preface to his list of complaints he wrote:

"Out of love for the truth and the desire to bring it to the light, the following propositions will be discussed..."   Preface to 95 Theses

Typical of his disgust with idea that a person can purchase salvation rather than find it in divine devotion, is thesis number 27:

"They preach man who say that so soon as the penny jingles into the money-box, the soul flies out of purgatory."

It was Luther’s contention that the Church and the Pope were already wealthy beyond imagination.  Yet the purported reason for selling indulgences was to pay for improvements to the atmosphere of Rome.  In particular the cleansing and refurbishing of St. Peter’s basilica.  To Luther these were simply taxes levied against those who could afford to pay for their sins with gold instead of true contrition.  That he was an honestly pious man who believed deeply in the Word of God is apparent in nearly all of his complaints; for example, thesis number 36:

"Christians are to be taught that he who sees a man in need, and passes him by, and gives his money for pardons, purchases not the indulgences of the pope, but the indignation of God."

Note that the word “pope” is not capitalized.  In none of the ninety five complaints does Luther afford the leader of the Church the honorific of the capital letter.  He was a devout man insulted by the greed of a Church that had demoted the message of God’s love in favor of salvation for sale by its Pope.  Luther believed that it was man’s love of God, and His love of man, available to all people at no material cost, that was the true source of salvation.  And he rankled at the repression of common people and their questioning of reasons behind indulgences:

“To repress these arguments and scruples of the laity by force alone, and not to resolve them by giving reasons, is to expose the Church and the pope to the ridicule of their enemies, and to make Christians unhappy.”

Of course all this protest would have gone unnoticed if it were not for a new, miracle of technology called the printing press.  Soon after Luther’s 95 Theses was nailed to the church door, it was taken to a nearby press and reproduced dozens of times.  The printing press, like today’s internet gave thousands and then hundreds of thousands access to Luther’s ideas.   And as his discontent was eventually the discontent of millions across Europe, so began the Reformation.  But it came at a cost to Luther, like it does to any individual singled out as a heretic.  Pope Leo X, tried to make him recant at the tribunal of the Diet of Worms.  When that didn’t work he had him excommunicated.  However, it did not stop Luther from writing:

"I neither can nor will recant anything, since it is neither right nor safe to act against conscience. Here I take my stand. I cannot do otherwise. So help me God."  Luther, Diet of Worms in 1521

The rest is history.  Luther is credited with building the bridge between the Dark Ages and the Renaissance.  More likely it was his personal outrage at corruptions of authority that led the people themselves to the enlightened idea that it was the individual - who was responsible for their own salvation, rather than the bureaucracy of the Church.  And if Luther had had a slight dyspepsia, and thought of just one more irritant to add to his list - what would it have been?  In our pop-conscious spirit of the sixties, we think it might have been the thought of yet another revolutionary:

"Resistance to tyranny is obedience to God."  Thomas Jefferson

Which, if applied to the psychedelic order of things would replace the question in ? and the Mysterians - with the ageless spirit of resistance to all things grandiose and of faded merit:

"You’re gonna cry, cry , cry cry
96 tears…"