He asks a great question. What would be your answer to it?
For me, relationship is essential to life, but relationship with what or whom, and what kind of relationship? It brings to mind this passage from the Gospel of Matthew:
‘Teacher, which commandment in the law is the greatest?’ He said to him, ‘ “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.” This is the greatest and first commandment. And a second is like it: “You shall love your neighbour as yourself.” On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.’ (Matt. 22:36-40, NRSV)
Jesus is telling us that the most important thing we should do, the foundation for everything else, is love God, love ourselves and love our neighbors. We are to be in relationship with one another and with God. Jesus himself is the very presence of God trying to be in direct relationship with us - no matter the cost, it was that important.
And, it is not just relationship, but right relationship that is essential.
We are to treat ourselves and each other as we would God. Imagine the possibilities if we did! Domestic violence, hate crimes, war - none of it would exist if we looked at one another and saw the face of God in the eyes that looked back at us. And there would be no suicides, no cutting, no starvation dieting by young girls, if when we looked in the mirror (or our reflection from the sea) we saw the face of God staring back.
So, back to the question my student posed. "If a person is alone on an island, with no one else around, do they exist? Can we exist outside of relationship with another?"
You see, we are never truly alone on a desert island. God, and all of God's creation, is always with us, and in us. We are always in relationship with ourselves, and with God, even if we have no neighbor with whom to share that love.
If we can open our hearts to this, if we can truly see God in all of creation, if we not only read and hear the words of Jesus, but live them out, imagine what the world could be like!
And now that you have imagined it, let's go and live it!