Touching the Rock Book Summary - Touching the Rock Book explained in key points
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Touching the Rock summary

An Experience of Blindness

4.5 (27 ratings)
18 mins

Brief summary

Touching the Rock by John M. Hull is a memoir that details his experience losing his sight and how it transformed his perception of the world around him. It is a book about resilience and the beauty of human adaptation.

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    Touching the Rock
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    Blindness erases the meaning of appearances and focuses on human voices.

    As someone who lost his sight as a full-grown man, John Hull’s experience of blindness was defined by his 45 previous years of sighted life. He was, therefore, surprised at how quickly his memories of people’s faces and the idea of appearances altogether began to lose their shape and meaning.

    John discovered that he could remember the faces of people he hadn’t met since becoming blind better than the faces of those closest to him: his wife, children, and those he worked with as a religious educator in Birmingham, England. It seemed that the new memories he developed after losing his sight enveloped any visual recollection of his wife and children. Unlike family members from Australia whom he hadn’t seen in years, John could recall his immediate family members’ appearances only by visualizing specific photographs.

    In the case of his wife, Marilyn, the frozen image of her photograph led John to question that it meant that he would always remember her as a young woman. Similarly, he wondered whether he would always visualize his daughter Imogene as a seven-year-old child.

    It wasn’t only his family members whose faces he began to forget; John also began forgetting his own appearance. Blindness began to distort his experience of aging and gradually shifted his self-image altogether.

    In his early years of blindness, John found himself projecting imagined images onto the people he met, especially when speaking with women. Yet as time went by, John increasingly found his focus on the human voice. Qualities in voices such as gracefulness, accuracy, or melody became a resourceful indication of a human identity. He was also surprised how, when interviewing candidates for university admission, his remarks on a candidate based solely on his or her voice matched the comments his sighted colleagues had based on the same person’s physical appearance and behavior.

    John’s experience of the human voice was so powerful that he sometimes even needed to remind himself that people had an appearance at all – something he acknowledged to be important in the sighted world. His newly developed attention to the human voice was just one of the many ways in which John rediscovered the world through sound.

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    What is Touching the Rock about?

    Touching the Rock (1990) is an account of one man’s understanding of blindness. Having lost his sight as a full-grown man, John M. Hull explores the daily psychological and physical experience of being blind, the tools that the blind use to navigate space and relationships, and the meaning of blindness in a sighted world.

    Touching the Rock Review

    Touching the Rock (1990) by John M. Hull is a deeply moving and thought-provoking book that offers a unique perspective on blindness and the human experience. Here's why this book is worth reading:

    • Through Hull's honest and introspective reflections, readers gain profound insights into the challenges and resilience of living with blindness.
    • The book explores the emotional and psychological impact of losing one's sight, offering a powerful exploration of consciousness and identity.
    • By sharing personal anecdotes and observations, Hull paints a vivid and intimate portrait of his world, creating a connection that is both enlightening and deeply empathetic.

    Best quote from Touching the Rock

    Blindness is an internal state. One knows that the external world is still there to be seen.

    —John M. Hull
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    Who should read Touching the Rock?

    • Friends, relatives, or romantic partners of the blind
    • Anyone suffering from depression or a physical disability
    • Students of philosophy or psychology

    About the Author

    John M. Hull (1935-2015) was a professor of religious education and theology and author of numerous books on education, theology, and disability. He was granted a Lifetime Achievement Award by the Royal National Institute of Blind People (RNIB) in 2012 for his contributions to the literature of blindness.

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    Touching the Rock FAQs 

    What is the main message of Touching the Rock?

    The main message of Touching the Rock is the transformative power of adapting to and embracing new experiences.

    How long does it take to read Touching the Rock?

    The reading time for Touching the Rock varies depending on the reader, but it typically takes a few hours. The Blinkist summary can be read in just 15 minutes.

    Is Touching the Rock a good book? Is it worth reading?

    Touching the Rock is a moving and thought-provoking book that offers valuable insights into the human experience. It is definitely worth reading.

    Who is the author of Touching the Rock?

    John M. Hull is the author of Touching the Rock.

    What to read after Touching the Rock?

    If you're wondering what to read next after Touching the Rock, here are some recommendations we suggest:
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