Barbra Streisand burst into my consciousness in the 1960s when she became a media darling for her role as Fanny Brice in Funny Girl. I always assumed she WAS Fanny Brice reincarnated. Look at old footage of Fanny Brice and you will see a strong resemblance. And Fanny did a mighty fine job of reincarnating and doing all the things she COULD NOT do when she was alive due to her gender and limited technology. Fanny/Barbra used her resources for all the power they are worth.
As a singer, Barbra Streisand engages with songs in such an intimate way. She plays with them, enhancing each one with nuanced emotion. She makes them sparkle; and the songs make her shine. Her first signature song was “People” from Funny Girl. And she could sell that song – I believed her completely.
People… people who need people… are the luckiest people in the world!
In recent years I laughingly revise the song to be “People….people who need people….are in dee-ee-p doo-doooooo.” Many folks would be quick to correct me with beautiful examples of compassion in action, as people respond to natural and person made disasters in loving and giving ways. Yes, I see and love that about people. When we are called upon to assist others in need, we usually respond. What I want to look at is the idea embedded in the song that “people needing people” is a fortunate characteristic of being. A “lucky” aspect to have in your relations with others, as the song says.
A quick look at the song lyrics, reveals the Romantic ideal that I need another person to complete me.
…a feeling deep in your soul, says you were half now your whole, no more hunger and thirst, but first, be a person who needs people.
On the surface this seems to be an ideal to aspire to and I think many of us spend some portion of our life searching for this ideal. The problem is that it is based on a false premise – that we are incomplete as individuals. We are born complete and whole. We are not broken or full of sin. We are in direct relation with the energetic force of love that creates the Universe. All this longing we feel, this emptiness we mistake for lack, all this need is the overpowering desire to be reunited with the source of our being. We feel like dried up little creek beds parched for water. We feel lack. A lot of lack. And we look to each other to help, save, complete us. Take a moment to think about all the songs, books, movies, performances you have witnessed that reinforce this very idea. And I love these stories! They make me laugh, cry, feel alive, AND they create some debilitating beliefs that can wreck relationships. Needing to be completed by your partner is one of those injurious beliefs.
What if, we were people who WANT people, who enjoy and respect people, who cherish people. This engenders an entirely different way of relating to others. I can be complete with or without other people. No need arises, just desire. Desire is easier, more relaxed than need. Desire springs from an attraction energy that entangles us with each other. Desire allows the dance, while need taps her foot and looks at his watch. Feel the difference between these two states of being. It is immense. Then choose the one that brings you relief and ease. While I know there are times when I will need people and there will be times that other people will need me, being a person who needs people may be a questionable practice on which to build lasting, loving relationships.
Case in point: Fanny Brice pitches this idea to Nicki Arnstein through the song “People” in the show Funny Girl. I love this scene in the movie because Omar Shariff has this bemused smile the entire time he follows Barbra around while she sings. It is like he is thinking, “You really believe this, don’t you? Hmmmmm, maybe I can believe it too!” The film then proceeds to illustrate the disappointment inherent in trying to live a relationship based in neediness, roles and duty. But it is so sweet the way they try. It is poignant. Because, in fact, they are both whole people and neither of them needs the other to be complete. They might have had a very different relationship if they had started from that premise.