Mountain Views News     Logo: MVNews     Saturday, November 8, 2014

MVNews this week:  Page B:2



Mountain Views-News Saturday, November 8, 2014 


The site where Rosetta’s Philae lander is scheduled 
to touch down on Comet 67P/Churyumov-
Gerasimenko November 12 now has a name: 

 The landing site, previously known as “Site J,” is 
named for Agilkia Island on the Nile River in the 
south of Egypt. A complex of Ancient Egyptian 
buildings, including the famous Temple of Isis, was 
moved to Agilkia from the island of Philae when the 
latter was flooded during the building of the Aswan 
dams last century.

 The name was selected by a jury comprising 
members of the Philae Lander Steering Committee 
as part of a public competition run October 16–22 
by ESA and the German, French and Italian space 

 Agilkia was one of the most popular entries, 
proposed by over 150 participants. Although 
perhaps not quite as complicated as navigating 
Rosetta and Philae towards the comet, the task of 
choosing a name was by no means simple. More 
than 8,000 entries from 135 countries were received 
in one week, showing great creativity and cultural 

 Participants proposed names in a variety of 
languages, both ancient and modern; some were 
even in Esperanto. There were also some interesting 
acronyms, curious sequences of digits, and 
onomatopoeic words.

 The entries covered a tremendous range of 
themes, from abstract concepts to the names of 
places on Earth. As with the winning entry, many 
suggestions echoed the Egyptian origins of Rosetta 
and Philae, named in recognition of milestones in 
decoding hieroglyphics, the sacred writing system 
of ancient Egypt.

 Many names dated back to the history of our 
planet’s exploration, as those journeys into the 
unknown are the natural forebears of Rosetta and 
Philae. Mythological names from all over the globe 
were also proposed, including gods and goddesses 
of water, fertility, life and creation, relating closely 
to the fundamental themes investigated by the 

 Other names were drawn from ancient history 
and prehistory, while others recalled milestones in 
the history of science, particularly the history of our 
understanding of comets.

 The progress of the Space Age was also honored by 
many entries. There were many references to science 
fiction, celebrating the work of Jules Verne, Arthur 
C. Clarke and Douglas Adams, among others.

 And, of course, there was no shortage of 
more humorous entries, many referring to the 
resemblance of the comet’s nucleus to a rubber 
duck, a potato or even the cartoon dog, Snoopy.

 But the final choice was Agilkia, which is how the 
landing site on the comet will be referred to by ESA 
and its mission partners.

 “And it couldn’t be a more appropriate name,” 
comments Fred Jansen, ESA Rosetta mission 
manager. “The relocation of the temples of Philae 
Island to Agilkia Island was an ambitious technical 
endeavor performed in the 1960s and 1970s to 
preserve an archaeological record of our ancient 

 “In eight days’ time, Philae will be deployed from 
the orbiter onto Agilkia. On 12 November, we’ll be 
attempting a unique comet landing, an even more 
ambitious endeavor to unlock secrets of our most 
remote origins.”

 Rosetta will release Philae at 08:35 GMT/09:35 
CET on November 12 at a distance of 22.5 km from 
the center of the comet, with a scheduled landing 
about seven hours later at Agilkia.

You can contact Bob Eklund at: b.eklund@

WHY GO TO THE MOUNTAINS? By Christopher Nyerges

 In his classic 
book, “The 
One Straw 
Press, 1978), 
describes his 
path that led 
him to natural 
When he was 
young, he had a 
realization that completely changed his life. It was 
hard for him to put it into words, but he described 
it like this: “Humanity know nothing at all. There 
is no intrinsic value in anything, and every action 
is a futile, meaningless effort.” His experiences in 
the world seemed to verify this realization.

 Years later, after contracting acute pneumonia 
from what he describes as “an aimless life coupled 
with fatigue from overwork,” he was hospitalized. 
Upon his release, he experienced great depression 
and wandered about. He collapsed on a hill 
overlooking the harbor, and spent the night there. 
He was awakened by a great heron flapping its 
wings and crying. His realization came back to 
him, and the words that came from his mouth 
were “In this world this is nothing at all.” He felt as 
if he understood nothing.

 He returned to his father’s farm in the country, 
and began the path that led to his radical way of 
farming, letting nature teach him what is best, 
using no pesticides, doing no tilling, pulling no 
weeds, and -- remarkably – eventually producing 
crop yields the equal of conventional farmers. 

 Why do I go to the forest? I think of Masanobu 
Fukuoka whenever someone asks me that. Going 
to the forest isn’t an escape from the nothingness 
of modern urban life, but it does provide a chance 
to allow one’s self to come forth.

 One day in late winter, we’d just finished a day 
of intensive outdoor training in the foothills of the 
Angeles National Forest. We were now back at our 
cars, saying our goodbyes, when one woman asked 
me, “Don’t you ever go to the mountains just for 
fun?” She looked quizzically at me, waiting for an 
answer to her sincere question. I had to think for a 

 “Perhaps my difficulty is with the word fun,” I 
finally responded. “To me, fun implies frivolity, 
diversion, and something not to be taken 
seriously,” I slowly responded. “So I rarely go to 
the mountains for fun. I enjoy studying nature, 
learning new things, expanding my ability to see 
the unseen, and developing new skills. These 
serious pursuits are my ‘fun’ since they provide me 
with a means to stretch my limits, to grow, to seek 
to find meaning in a world that sometimes seems 
to have no meaning. So I go to the mountains for 
my spiritual nourishment.” She nodded. I didn’t 
want to seem overly philosophical, so we said our 
final goodbyes and departed.

 Since then, I have considered her question.

 People today spend billions of dollars talking 
to psychologists, and self-improvement seminars, 
and seeking out various self-appointed “masters” 
who suggest they know “the way.” The reason for 
this occasionally desperate search for “answers” is 
that our society has cut us off from raw nature. 
The result seems to be that we have lost touch with 
our inherent, but dormant, spiritual faculties.

 We live our lives cramped in houses and 
apartments and freeways in a highly structured 
organized society. We thus have lost a healing and 
a grounding that people closer to the earth took for 

 I am not one who believes that closer contact with 
nature automatically imparts a greater spiritual 
wakefulness, more awareness, deeper sense of the 
meaning of life, etc. Observation demonstrates 
that people who are lazy, sloppy, wasteful, and 
unaware in their urban environment will practice 
those same bad habits when they go to the country 
or wilderness. Some prophets of the wilderness 
suggest that if we all went back to the wilderness, 
the world would be a better place. That’s simplistic 
and silly.

 The unexplored wilderness that we need to 
investigate is within our own minds, and in the 
hills and valleys of the unused portions of our 
brains. And, in general, two things are required in 
order to find and to explore that inner wilderness. 
One is a guide – someone (or something) to 
point the way. Usually this is a person who has 
already traveled the path ahead of you. Another 
requirement is to get away from the patterns and 
paradigms of man so you can attempt to discover 
a natural rhythm, and so you can attempt to listen, 
and to see, and to think, in ways that no one could 
do for you.

 So that’s part of what I attempt to do. I go to 
the hills and valleys and rivers and mountains and 
deserts of the Angeles National Forest and beyond 
to find myself, to re-awaken and to revitalize that 
inner spiritual part which is usually assaulted non-
stop in the urban wilderness of man.

 Still, for awhile, I couldn’t get her question out of 
my mind. “Don’t you ever go to the mountains just 
for fun?”

 I had to think back 45 to 50 years ago when I 
began my treks to the mountains in earnest. Yes, 
back then, sometimes I did go just for fun, to pass 
the time, to avoid boredom, or to exercise. We 
walked from our home up to the hills, and explored 
the trails, caves, and old forgotten sites. We could 
walk a few miles up the street from our home, and 
then hike on the mountain trails to old cabin sites 
and ruins of the old resorts right up there in our 
extended backyard. 

 At a very early age, I began to think about life’s “big 
questions,” and I read books voraciously. I found 
some answers, but concluded that true answers are 
personal and can only be found through personal 
realization. Thus, I set out to find my Self, to 
awaken that Self within, as my individual quest. 
In a sense, I had the same realization as Masanobu 
Fukuoka, except that instead of going to the farm 
to find answers, I went to the hills. 

 So why did I find myself dwelling so much on 
the question posed to me? I suppose it is because I 
have drifted. In my youth, I knew that all answers 
were obtainable from within, if you only had the 
clarity to define your quest, and the patience and 
concentration to pursue the answers. I knew this 
from my own personal experience, and from an 
inner knowing. But, as I became more enmeshed 
in the adult world of jobs and bills and resumes and 
rents and mortgages and repairs and insurance and 
taxes and business ventures and organizations and 
worldly success and failure and politics and social 
issues, and on and on – well, what I think happened 
to me is what happens to nearly everyone, except 
most people seem barely aware that anything at all 
has happened. This external “self” slowly becomes 
the master, and the inner Self is forgotten.

 So I go to the mountains to look, in order that 
I may see. I see, in order that I may remember. I 
remember, in order that I might Learn. And my 
goal is to learn one new thing each time I visit 
the hills. One new thing, whether from my own 
thinking and observation and memory, or from 
another person.

 And as a result of being born right here at 
the base of these mountains, these mountains 
are not only my home and “backyard,” but they 
have been my spiritual training ground. I regard 
these mountains as sacred since they provide me 
(and you) with the means to escape the complex 
artificial order of man, and to find True Self if I 
work at it.

 That is why I go to the mountains.

[Nyerges is the author of “Enter the Forest,” “How 
to Survive Anywhere,” “Guide to Wild Foods 
and Useful Plants,” and other books. He has been 
leading field trips into the mountains since 1974. He 
can be reached at Box 41834, Eagle Rock, CA 90041,