In Paulo’s novel The Alchemist, the hero Santiago has a vision, or, more correctly, an experience of the world as whole, where the macrocosm and microcosm are one. In a balloon, there is no wind. There is no sense of motion; the world moves around you, the still point.
Breakfast and conversation followed our return to Earth. What was Paulo like? It would be hard to say. I think it is a conceit to think we can know anyone in a brief encounter, or even after a long friendship. I guess my impression of this man would be this image, this slice of time and space.
The balloon flight was scheduled early in the morning. While most of the Kanto plain is developed, a large wetland exists north of Tokyo and is perfect for hot-air ballooning. The weather, however, was typical, hazy and overcast.
Paulo’s Japanese publisher Masao Masuda of Jiyu-sha had a wonderful balloon with a satellite image of the Earth printed on it. I was in a second balloon. Paulo is standing to the right of Masuda-san in the basket.
On October 24th, 1995, I shared a remarkable experience with the Brazilian author Paulo Coelho. He was in Japan to promote his new book. We shared the same publisher who took us just outside Tokyo for a hot-air balloon ride.