The Falun Gong are making their presence felt in New York. I was having a moment of private vanity in public, staring at myself in the subway window, when I saw their reflection coming on the train, a man and a woman in their yellow shirts, one holding a giant picture of a tortured woman incidentally in the face of the other as they chatted quietly together. I assumed their day of consciousness raising was over. They probably had sat silently along 42nd street or at Grand Army Plaza, meditating, adopting one of their postures, bearing witness to the atrocities of the Chinese or passing out their pamphlets to passersby. I am always afraid to touch them, as if their manical need for contemplative peace will be contagious, and instead of rushing to work I will suddenly find myself in a yellow shirt adopting some squatting Tai Chi pose in Herald Square.
Sometimes alongside of the Falun Gong protesters there will be by chance someone passing out fliers for a gym or for a nearby pilates center. For some reason all gyms and yoga studios employ this advertising method. I see then that the Falun Gong are on the brink of success, they just sell their meditative practices as some kind of disciplinary exercise, a dieting technique, and they might break through. They seem too much like a cult now, and they are too associated with dissent to ever truly be popular in America.
I suspect that Americans will never be too concerned about atrocitiies committed by the Chinese, since these verify Americans’ beliefs in the inherent superiority of their own country, their own way of life. The Chinese are godless communists, of course they are torturing their people. If it bothers these gong people so much, why don’t they come to America? As long as they don’t move into my town . . .
Even though they spook me, I enjoy seeing them, I enjoy the feeling of being spooked in the midst of my preoccupations. Their cult-like prsence casts those around them into a smiliar light, and suddenly the fixated consumers rushing in and out of stores seem as though there in a cult, as do all the people with cell phones attached to their ears and all the people sipping identical cups of iced coffee drinks and all the people dressed idetically in those mesh nylon slippers and wearing jeans rolled up in five inch cuffs. Suddenly I’m spooked because I know I’m unaffiliated, or at least I am succeeding in blocking out the identity of the cult I belong to, I realize suddenly I have no mental picture of myself as I appear on the street, and what a blessed, meditative thing that is.