Those who, like me, grew up in the 1950s, and maybe some who are not so old, will remember the song Barbara Streisand sang in Funny Girl – ‘People who need People’ (composed by Jules Styne, lyrics by Bob Merrill) – which declared that such people are the luckiest people in the world.
Whenever I heard that song, and I had to hear it on the radio many many times, I always responded with scepticism. For it had been clear to me for a long time that I didn’t need people, and I liked it that way.
Oh, as a boy I needed the protection of my parents and brothers, and later I needed the help of teachers, etc to get an education, get jobs, etc. But along the way I never felt an emotional need for anyone.
I loved my parents and brothers, as much as anyone can. I loved my wife, with whom I remain married after 44 years, and I loved my children unreservedly from the day they were born, but I never felt a ‘need’ for anyone.
Whenever I have a problem, any problem, I instinctively want to be alone to deal with it. That is a good definition of a loner.
It might sound like a prescription for disaster, but it can result in great success.
The American author James Michener, who produced many bestselling novels, at least half of which were made into successful films (starting with Tales of the South Pacific), said in his autobiography, The World is My Home:
I am a loner to an extent that would frighten most men. ……. I chose not to become involved in the literary scene on a social level. It did not appeal to me; it did not seem rewarding; it was distracting rather than productive and, most important, because of my personality and attitudes I would not have been very good at being part of it. I have remained off by myself, and it may seem shocking that at age eighty-five I have known almost no other writers, American or foreign, even casually.
What did Michener do instead of getting to know his peers? Beginning with his World War II wandering through the South Pacific as an investigator for the U.S Navy, he roamed the world all his life, looking and looking, reading and reading, writing and writing those books, all the way to the end.
That’s what someone can do who doesn’t need people.