Talks / Performances

SBS D Forum • Seoul • October 31, 2019

Harvard Memorial Church - Morning Prayers

November 6, 2023


On the George Herbert aphorism, "After the house is finished, leave it"


Harvard Memorial Church flyer

River Teeth

June 17, 2024

And here's "After the House is Finished" in micro-essay form, in River Teeth's Beautiful Things series

House of SpeakEasy's Seriously Entertaining

Joe's Pub, The Public Theater New York, New York November 12, 2019


The audio of my talk on the theme 'For Good Measure,' featuring ancient Incan khipu, the Chinese character for 'big,' and the etymology of the word 'fathom'


House of SpeakEasy • New York • November 12, 2019

SBS D Forum

Seoul, South Korea October 31, 2019


The Nieman Foundation for Journalism at Harvard University curated this session at the SBS D Forum, consisting of a panel discussion of Communication and Community plus:


My introduction on the relationship between the traditional Korean painting The Sun, Moon, and Five Peaks and our current social media environment


Karim ben Khelifa on The Enemy


Ethan Zuckerman on making social media good for society


Eve Pearlman on dialogue journalism


Young Min on connection, communication and trust

Chautauqua Institution

Chautauqua, NY July 31, 2019


5 Ways To Be Witty


James Geary Juggles Defining Elements of Wit & Humor Chautauqua Daily, July 31, 2019


James Geary to Examine Power of Wittiness in Humor & Humanity Chautauqua Daily, July 30, 2019

Samsung Press Foundation

Seoul, South Korea June 26, 2019


Political Polarization and the Press


You can read the text of the speech on Nieman Reports.

Politics and Prose

Washington, D.C. January 5, 2019


Wit's End Live

SBS Seoul Digital Forum

Seoul, South Korea May 20, 2016


Journalism and the Ancient Korean Poetic Form Sijo


The Evolution of Digital Storytelling in Journalism

Ram Readers

Cambridge, MA January 30, 2016


Where Words, Wit and Juggling Meet

Suffolk University student Amanda Zarni's review of my Grolier Bookshop gig

Penny W. Stamps Distinguished Visitors Series

University of Michigan School of Art and Design Ann Arbor, MI Feb. 11, 2010


Juggling Aphorisms

As part of my 'Juggling Aphorisms and Mixing Metaphors' show, I invite audience members to name a theme, in response to which I must immediately come up with an aphorism. If I fail, he / she gets a free copy of my book. During this exchange at the University of Michigan, the challenge began with 'monkeys' and quickly escalated to 'Zimbabwe', 'birth control' and 'lust'...


You can see the entire Penny W. Stamps event here on YouTube.

TEDGlobal 2009

Oxford, UK July, 2009


Metaphorically Speaking

Aphorism enthusiast and author James Geary waxes on a fascinating fixture of human language: the metaphor.


Here's my record of noteworthy tweets from my micro-talk on aphorisms while juggling, during which I dropped the balls — twice.

The Sun Valley Writers' Conference

Sun Valley, Idaho August, 2008


Why I love aphorisms, and how they can change your life


Me, aphorisms and my 'Henry David Thoreau moment'


How I discovered that my late father also collected aphorisms


Sun Valley Writers' Conference - August, 2008

Philosophy and the Aphorism

London, England March 14, 2008


Sadly, the archive is no longer online, so the links below no longer connect to the videos. But here is the schedule of speakers and what topics they addressed.


Together with Tim Crane, director of the Institute of Philosophy, and aphorist Simon May, I organized a one-day symposium on aphorisms and philosophy at Goodenough College, University of London. Poets, professors, philosophers, psychologists and comedians—all of them aphorists—from Europe and the United States gathered to discuss the aphorism as a bright, incisive way of grappling with the big questions of life—and to celebrate the form as just the thing if you hate ideologies but love ideas.


Participants included Stephen Clucas, reader in Early Modern Intellectual History at Birkbeck, University of London; Friedemann Spicker and Jurgen Wilbert, co-founders of the German Aphorism Convention and the German Aphorism Archive; Philippe Moret, author of Tradition et modernité de l’aphorisme; Sami Feiring, chairman of the Aphorism Association of Finland; film-maker Boris Mitic, who chronicled the Belgrade Aphoristic Circle in his documentary Goodbye, How Are You?; Don Paterson, Scottish poet and aphorist; James Richardson, American poet, aphorist, and professor of English and Creative Writing, Princeton University; Fulvio Fiori, Italian author, playwright and aphorist; and German psychologist and aphorist Bert Hellinger.


The folks at recorded some of the other talks, which are linked below...


Sara Levine, associate professor, MFA in Writing Program, The School of the Art Institute of Chicago, explored the pleasures and dangers of using the aphorism to write “the great American novel.”


Philosopher Sir Roger Scruton, explained why aphorisms are like stock cubes.


Simon May, college research fellow in Philosophy, Birkbeck, University of London and author of The Little Book of Big Thoughts, highlighted the need for aphoristic wisdom in an age of declining religion.


This is the final session in full, including a Q&A at the end...


James Geary on why aphorists are pessimists—and why that's optimistic (0:25-21:07)


A.C. Grayling, professor of philosophy at Birkbeck College, University of London, on the optimal moments for aphorisms (21:30-34:00)


British TV comedy legend John Lloyd on jokes and aphorisms (34:00-46:35)


Waterstone's Bookshop

London, England March 13, 2008


The night before the aphorism symposium, I did my 'Juggling Aphorisms' gig at Waterstone's, from which is extracted this clip, also courtesy of the folks at


Ambrose Bierce and his fiendish definitions from The Devil's Dictionary (17:30-21:47)

Foreign Policy Association

October 10, 2007


A Riddle Wrapped in A Mystery inside An Enigma: Aphorisms and Diplomacy

The New York Public Library

Live from the NYPL October 9, 2007


The aphorisms of Josh Billings and the rise of stand-up comedy


Another think-of-an-aphorism-on-the-spot challenge, this time about 'illness' and 'salad'...


Mae West and the question of chiasmus


You can see the entire Live from the NYPL event here

The Ilkley Literature Festival

Ilkley, UK October 1, 2006


The aphorisms of Marie von Ebner-Eschenbach, plus some of my aphorisms and a brief history of my foray into fortune cookies.


For an example of how I deployed my fortune cookies at poetry readings, see my 1987 appearance at Larry Blake's.


Some of the trepanned globes used in my aphorism talk for "The World in A Phrase"


The Talk Show



In 2002, I was one of the regular hosts of BBC 4’s short-lived The Talk Show, a live arts, culture, and science discussion program.


November 2, 2001

The 'theory of everything' and the popularization of science, with cosmologist Martin Rees, astrophysicist Janna Levin and philosopher John Dupre


April 11, 2002

Poetry and memory, with poets Jo Shapcott, Mimi Khalvati and Tom Paulin


April 16, 2002

Performance art, with artists Laura Godfrey-Isaacs and Hermann Nitsch, plus Aldous Huxley and psychedelia, with biographer Nicholas Murray, author Sadie Plant and cultural historian Jonathon Green

The Institute of Contemporary Arts

London Feb. 26, 2002


The Body Electric

A panel discussion focused on some of the themes addressed in my earlier book The Body Electric: An Anatomy of the New Bionic Senses, with artificial life researcher Steve Grand and artist Brian Eno.