Those who, like me, grew up in the 1950s , and some who are not so old, will remember the Barbara Streisand song in Funny Girl (composed by Jule Styne, lyrics by Bob Merrill) – People Who Need People – which declared that such people are 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 had a sceptical response. For it was clear to me 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 and other people to get an education, find 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, who I was married to for 49 years until her death this year. I loved my children unreservedly from the day they were born, and I feel the same for my little 3 year-old grand-daughter today. But I never felt a ‘need’ for anyone.
When I had a problem, any problem, I instinctively wanted to be alone to deal with it. That, of course, is the description of a loner – or of someone on the spectrum.
You might think this is a prescription for disaster, but it can result in great success.
The American author James Michener, who produced many bestselling novels, half of which were made into Hollywood films, who was born poor and became very wealthy from his books alone, 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 thus 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 United States navy, he roamed the world his whole 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.