Connie takes the week off, as her 'benign familiar' reveals a spirit plan for world peace

Unwise to ignore the body telling you to follow The Bear while you dwell in the land of frantic activity during the season most suited for slumber. --Anon.

Pardon me, but the person who usually writes this column is suffering from a condition labeled Seasonal Affective Disorder and is curled up in a cave, resting alongside Pooh, and waiting for spring. But since she is a conscientious sort--as humans go--she mumbled something about getting this written and sent to her editor. I am writing on her behalf so she can sleep easy.

Let me introduce myself. I'm her anonymous, benign familiar. As befitting my station, I keep a low profile other than in the event of a national or spiritual emergency. It seems our slumbering scribbler is exhibiting the effects of both and is inclined to believe they may be tragically linked.

Sad to say, at this time of year, the pace of the season challenges even the most sanguine human to keep a stiff upper lip, or, as you Americans are wont to say, suck it up. Both expressions present a bit of a puzzle to me since in my current non-manifestation I am lipless, which, if I understand correctly, makes "sucking it up" impossible. Perhaps such expressions are merely what you humans call metaphors, a device contributing to the illusory nature of what you declare communication.

Luckily for us familiars, we don't use language to communicate, so there is no possibility of the kind of craziness humans seem to relish. But enough about us; I'm sure you have no interest in the metaphysical world since the material world appears to present enough problems.

Before the now-snoring scribbler followed The Bear into his cave, she received a holiday greeting in the post. "May you have the spirit of Christmas which is peace; the gladness of Christmas which is hope; the heart of Christmas which is love," the card read. Such lovely wishes from a kind and gentle soul, but not enough to soothe the wintering writer waiting for spring as she breathes in the pungent Bear smell which, mingling with her human breath on each inhale, helps her survive the season of less sun.

As an elder familiar, I am familiar with apprentice familiars. Despite human rumor to the contrary, we are a peaceful bunch--though I admit to a certain predilection to rascality. This disposition leads me to convene with familiar cohorts and concoct a plan designed to bring cheer to my human's saddened soul when, upon her awakening in the days of stretching sun, she learns of our mischief-making.

Spirits we are, but blessedly free of those fractious tendencies leading to folly, misfortune and--of mortal inventions the most calamitous--war.

In keeping with the spirit, so to speak, of the season, I've convinced a gaggle of ghosts to implement what you seem incapable of accomplishing. Since each year at this time, you fill the world with words of peace and love and hope and joy, and since you must mean it or you wouldn't say it, we believe you want to live in peace. (Familiars have neither capacity for, nor understanding of, what humans call "lies." And the notion "unrealistic" is utterly beyond comprehension.)

World peace you desire, and world peace you shall have. Purge doubt from your Thomas-like mind; we've got a foolproof plan certain to save Earth and its people. Uh, well, most of its people. Unfortunately, a tiny fraction of the world's population, far out of proportion to its numbers, has the power to influence the future. It is this imbalance that leads to egregious injustices. But this untenable situation is about to change.

Hark! I hear the trumpet of a hip angel with a brief case containing a deed to a remote, uninhabited portion of the planet just large enough to accommodate each and every fundamentalist Jew, Christian and Muslim on Earth, the aforementioned tiny fraction with too much power and too little sense, who share more with each other than they acknowledge. Self-sufficient and isolated, with no means of either communication with or contamination of the outside world, this domed domain will house and biblically provide for all such individuals.

Did I mention they have no choice? I mean, really, do you believe, in the deepest recesses of your fearful self, that mortals have any choice in anything when familiars decide to get involved in humans' picayune affairs and misled meanderings of the mind?

On the morning of Dec. 25 (this could take a while to arrange, so it may have to wait 'til next year), all fundamentalists, those hardened vestiges of primal fear wearing the sanctimonious cloak of religious fervor, will be teleported to--let's call it Cimmeria--where they will either learn to live together or face consequences of their own making.

Gone, they will not be forgotten. Their story will serve as a cautionary tale to future human generations who, at last, may give peace a chance.