Here’s an exercise in creativity anyone can try.
How many ways are there to get Godzilla to the other side of the Great Wall of China?
Let’s show how breaking down the possibilities can generate all sorts of ideas.
1. The direct approach. Godzilla gets over the wall under his own power by … climbing, jumping, pole-vaulting, pogo-sticking, trampolining, taking the stairs, building stairs or bridges or a ski jump out of logs, used cars, dirt, trash, snow …
2. The direct approach plus help. Godzilla gets a boost. From who or what? People. Animals. Machines. Nature. So he hops in a cab or really big rickshaw that drives him around. Or gets lifted by a crane. Or maybe he’s tethered to dozens of cranes of the feathered kind who lift him over. Two dozen bears, two million ants … all sort of creatures could assist. He could fly a plane, use a catapult, explode a bomb under his butt. Or wait for a flood and swim over. Or a blizzard and use those skis.
3. The direct approach plus motivational help. Ever hear the joke: “How many psychologists does it take to screw in a light bulb?” Answer: “Just one, but the light bulb really has to want to change.” Seriously, is it tough for a giant monster to get over a wall? Not if he wants to. So that’s the real problem, you say: Getting Godzilla to want to. Lure him with delights: Food, music, air-conditioning, a monster movie marathon, a lady Godzilla wet T-shirt contest with free beer. Chase him with unpleasantries: Smoke, fire, neckties with pink giraffes, speeches from reptilian politicians. Or even induce him to do it by accident: Get him drunk or dancing, or make him chase you in circles till he’s so dizzy that he falls over the wall.
4. The lateral thinking possibilities. Here, you put on your lawyer/smart aleck hat and scrutinize the question, grin slyly and ask, “Who says … ?” Example: Who says he has to go OVER? It just says get to the other side. We already suggested taking a cab AROUND, which truly was a lateral move. But why can’t he go UNDER? He could dig, build a tunnel, perhaps even lift the wall and sashay through. Speaking of “THROUGH,” why not? Just smash through. Remove enough stones to crawl through then put them back. He could simply find or make a door. (Ugh, he’s so gigantic and indestructible, he could even eat part of the wall, step through, then barf or poop it to seal the gap.) Too easy for a monster? Suppose he couldn’t disturb the stones. What then? Well, he could wait till he dies and walk through as a ghost. Or use a teleportation contraption. Or use a time machine to go back before there was a wall and saunter to the designated spot. Other sci-fi ideas can do this, too, by using other dimensions or making his atoms squeeze between the atoms in the wall. Maybe grow his clone on the other side.
5. Reversal rehearsal. Now consider the bass-ackwards, contrarian approach. Who says Godzilla’s the one that has to move?! Move the wall! Lift it. Push it while he jumps. Disassemble and rebuild it. Relocate it through some space-time portal. Find a wall relocation service in the Yellow Pages. Is that the only sneaky-Pete approach? No, of course not. Don’t move Godzilla or the wall: Move the other side! Dig up the entire landscape there — grass, trees, weeds, bugs, rocks, sand, etc. — and take it to Godzilla.
6. Philosophical / psychological gambits. The really unruly kind of thinker will go even further and play mind games. For example, forget Godzilla’s body. That’s not truly him. So let’s just transport his mind. How? In lots of ways. We could remove his brain and transplant it into a Godzilla clone. Or even a wildebeest. (Godzilla’s big but I’m not so sure about his brain.) And if perception is reality, and all truth is just in our brains, then move the other side into Godzilla’s noggin. Set up cameras and microphones so he could see and hear the other side so well, to him there’s no difference between here and there. Or use some virtual reality video game. Or solve the mysteries of memory, and copy the memories of every creature, human and non, who lives on the other side, then download them into Godzilla’s brain. Again, imaginatively he’s there. Or, even more creatively quibbling, play semantical / relativity games. “The other side” is, after all, a relative term. Now you may define it as meaning the other side from Godzilla, but why not the other side from you or me? There are no absolutes, you argue. So you stand next to Godzilla, look at “the other side,” then go there yourself and, wuddya know, look, Godzilla’s on “the other side.” Or you stand atop the wall, or hover over it in a helicopter, looking one way, then you turn around, and ta da, left is right and right is left.
7. The Ultimate Plan of No Plan. Once you’ve exhausted everything that can be done, in all sorts of combinations, including with and without opposites, what could possibly be left? Nothing, of course. Then why don’t we try that? But how? Motivationally speaking, just wait. Godzilla will sooner or later wander to the other side. Not a very satisfying answer. OK, how’s this: In quantum mechanics, particles do not just have one location. Rather, they’re the sum of an infinite number of probabilities for all locations in the universe. In other words, we’re all everywhere at once, and Godzilla is already on the other side. Still no dice? as Einstein might say? Here’s my kicker. Do nothing for 12 hours. In that time, the Earth will spin halfway around. As seen by a from outer space (like by a being with x-ray vision), Godzilla really will have moved to the other side (as well as the other side of the Earth), just by doing nothing. Wait, if the wall was at the North or South Pole, this would be visible from space without any x-ray vision, so how about we somehow shift the Earth’s so that Great Wall goes over one of the poles … just don’t ask me how we do that …
Can you think of any category I missed?
Note: This page, originally posted in 2006, was tinkered with a bit in 2016.