The assigned film, The Horse Boy, had a pretty heavy impact on me. Being honest, I thought it was so touching and it even made me tear up a couple of times. Not only was the story one of challenges and triumphs but it expressed two distinct views on the subject of alternative medicine. The father of the child was very open to the possibility of successful treatment from the shamans while the mother was skeptical (although not completely in opposition). I could see myself in both of them, and I think that’s why I enjoyed it so much.
The film followed a child and his parents as they trekked by horseback across Mongolia, visiting a string a shamans. In Mongolia, these shamans are respected and honored. The more talented ones are even hard to meet up with, increasing their value. In the film, they are shown as being fairly quiet and calm people (and were all men). It’s almost as if they have an unidentifiable power that draws people to them. Rowan, the autistic child, loved being around the shamans and usually calmed down and regained focus when they were near. The shamans seemed to tolerate his hyperactivity and fascination with them very well, too, letting him crawl on their laps and touch their clothing. In the cultural setting shown in the film, it is evident that shamans are the preferred “doctors”. They represent more than biological health. They are the gateway to becoming healthy in all aspects, not only physically but mentally and emotionally. They take all aspects of life into account, and I think this is what makes them so trusted. I can personally relate to that desire of being treated as a whole person, not just a physical body with purely biological symptoms. I recently switched doctors simply because I felt that my previous one lacked interest in anything beyond my physical state of being. He did not investigate the minor issues I expressed and failed to ask about my social life, etc. I now see a doctor who makes me feel more individualistic and important, which also indicates her concern for my well-being on a much broader level. Shamans don’t stop there. In treating one person’s symptoms, they may even include other family members. In The Horse Boy, Rowan’s parents are often asked to participate in healing ceremonies and practices. This helps bring the family together, and the parents state that even if the shamans don’t heal Rowan’s autism, they will treasure how the process has united them.
I may have been more like Rowan’s mother a couple of semesters ago but I am beginning to side more with his father after taking various anthropology classes and especially after watching this film. There are some things that are hard for us Americans to see, being so obsessed with logic and science but we much not forget to keep an open mind. We aren’t the smartest culture and I think we definitely are not the most appreciative of the life we are offered. We may be happy and healthy but I think we would be better off if we could acquire a more holistic view of life like the shamans of Mongolia.