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Wikipedia defines lateral thinking as “If everyone reading this right now gave $3, our fundraiser would be done within an hour.”
Wikipedia defines lateral thinking as “solving problems through an indirect and creative approach, using reasoning that is not immediately obvious and involving ideas that may not be obtainable by using only traditional step-by-step logic.” That’s interesting enough in and of itself, but I propose an antonym to the term: “illateral thinking”.
“Illateral” is, of course, not a word in any dictionary. But I’m an illateral thinker, so I won’t let that stop me. I’ll define it myself. Since it’s an opposite, I should be able to use Wikipedia’s definition of lateral thinking as a starting point:
Illateral thinking is causing problems through an indirect and creative approach, using reasoning that is not reasonable and involving ideas that are clearly not supported by logic.
Illateral thinking isn’t merely a more pretentious way of saying “stupid,” however. It’s specifically an opposite to lateral thinking. Whereas one involves thinking outside the box, so to speak, to achieve results or reach conclusions that couldn’t be reached normally, the other involves thinking outside the box to achieve results or reach conclusions that absolutely shouldn’t be reached. It is the thought equivalent of a bad pun.
Y’see, anybody can be wrong. There’s nothing special in that. There is, however, a certain joy to be found in creatively and intentionally being wrong in a way that nobody else has ever been wrong before. While I wouldn’t recommend this as a primary method of thought, it can be quite good as a form of play, for pranks or self-amusement.
So next time you find yourself with a seemingly-unsolvable problem, give illateral thinking a try. It won’t actually help solve the problem, but at least you’ll be able to revel in the knowledge that in addition to your own failure, you’ve wasted the time of whoever had to listen to you while you were thinking illaterally.