THE TIME is right (February) for a historical work of sweep, grandeur and imagination on an enduring theme: the inverse relationship between human progress and head congestion. We can suggest, for anyone with the ambition to undertake it, no more than a title -- "Sinuses and Civilization: The Decline of the West Every February" -- and a few chapter outlines:

1)The Common Cold and the Entrepreneurial Spirit: How the sufferer is unable to imagine a time when he will be free of congestion and a creeping red soreness in his throat. If he is always going to feel like this, why bother to make money, or do anything?

2)Upper Respiratory Infections and the Fine Arts: A study of victims who listen for hours to melancholy accordion music or sit sniffling in front of a television screen on which idiotic heroes fly through the air in robot helicopters and motorcycles. 3)Things That Cannot Be Undone: Invasions of Russia, public-works projects, trade wars and assassinations that have been authorized by cold-suffering people who simply did not care about the consequences.

4)Indifference Through the Ages: The suffering of the martyrs who have made it to the office despite their illness, and how they so often have failed to receive the active sympathy and understanding they feel they deserve from others. The effect this has had as a motive force for backbiting in large and small bureaucracies.

5)Beyond the Canadian Rockies: The unsuccessful expedition to find the hidden valley where a fungus that cures head congestion was said to grow, and how even the sled dogs returned with the sniffles.