A Canticle of Hope and Light: Jackson Browne's "The Dreamer"

While many religious people celebrate the coming of the light in this holiday season, our world plunges increasingly into a darkness brought on by blind acts of greed, inhumane treatment of men and women by a super-arrogated political system, unjust social policies, selfish acts of pride, and the folly of superiority.

Yet, even in the dark, we dream, many of us more fervently than others. Dreams are light-filled moments that redeem darkness, that refuse the face of the black night, that demand that light never be shut out of our lives, and that reveal hope even in the midst of a bleakest gloom. One of the darkest acts perpetrated by our current political administration is the announcement on Sept. 5 that it will end the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program (DACA). If Congress doesn’t come up with an alternative program within six months from the announcement, our current administration will begin deporting these “dreamers.” Many of them were brought to the U.S. as children and have grown up here to lead successful lives and to fulfill their dreams. Now a curtain of darkness is about to fall on these dreamers.

In a light-filled, gorgeous canticle of hope, Jackson Browne and Eugene Rodriguez’s “The Dreamer” reminds us of the power of place and its pull on hearts and souls. Performed by Jackson Browne, Los Cenzontles, and David Hidalgo, and sung in English and Spanish, the song opens with a cascading harp in a tune reminiscent of Browne’s “Linda Paloma.” The second chorus of the song urgently, yet capaciously, asks “where do the dreams go/born of faith and illusion/where there's no road and no footprint/only desires that whisper to the heart.” The dreamer of the song brings with her a “crucifix to remind her” of her home and family she’s left behind and also of the pledge she’s made to do the best she can do, never knowing her hopes, her steadfastness, and her dreams might one day be shattered by a darkness beyond her control.

“The Dreamer” powerfully reveals the motivations for the darkness that covers our culture these days. We’re motivated by fear, especially fear of the other, who brings with her or him customs and beliefs and practices we may not understand. Rather than reaching across the walls of fear, we surround ourselves with them, falsely thinking we are protecting ourselves from those we have made our enemies. As Browne poignantly sings: “We don't see half the people around us/But we imagine enemies who surround us/And the walls that we've built between us/Keep us prisoners of our fears.” 


“The Dreamer” might just be the best carol released this year, for it brings light and hope to a dark world.

Very nice post Henry...a beautiful carol it is indeed.  Jackson is one artist who has always been an activist and true to himself and the vision for a more just world...wish there were more like him, and the others who perform here, David, Eugene, Los isn't lip service with them...


Thanks for your note, Jim. I agree that at least part of the beauty of this song is how much it matters to some of the singers. Thanks for your reflections on the song and on Jackson. I hope the song gets a little more notice than it has so far.