Protests five miles away in downtown Portland, Federal troops grabbing people off the streets in the downtown corridor and shooting deliberately at peoples' heads -- even journalists and medics -- and the specter of COVID-19 hanging over it all while millions are out of work and don't know when -- or even if -- they will return to work this year.
A president who should never have been allowed to take office, being used by powerful interests behind the scenes to bring to fruition the greedy, cynical groundwork that was laid when my generation was in diapers.
And don't forget global warming.
Yeah, things are ridiculously bad right now.
And here's the hard part, at least for me:
We are living with the levels and degrees of denial we can each afford.
In the Jewish world, that means that anyone with a full-time salaried position is still doing reasonably okay. They're essential. They're needed. They still have a place to live and a way to pay for their living.
For those of us who are gigging in the gig economy, we can count on things being the way they are to varying degrees, depending on multiple factors: How well we've marketed and monetized every living, breathing moment of our craft and art; whether or not we're partnered and whether or not that partner makes a decent living and has some job security; how well-connected we are within the scene and where we live.
I don't live a "typical" life for a Jewish performing artist.
I don't have a synagogue job, I don't have a regular day job at this point, and even if I did I can't really "go to work" outside my home because of the pandemic and my health issues placing me at greater risk.
Fortunately, I have other skills, and I've been using those to bring a little money in.
I don't know how long I can sustain this, or what will happen if things get worse for us down the road.
But the current state of the world has given me incredible pause as I consider how we live, and why we make the choices we make.
Some of my choices are why you haven't seen or heard so much from me on the Jewish music front.
The truth is that, between February and March my world turned upside down just like everyone else's.
The difference is that my world isn't likely to return to what it was before, and I knew that quite awhile ago.
I knew that, even if scientists eventually develop a vaccine, and even if we manage to get this virus under control, the fact is that I am not who I was in January when I sang at the Biennial.
I am not who I was in February when I had possibly one of the most memorable and best Shabbaton trips in my entire career, and I am not who I was when we came home from Weekend In Quest in early March.
By then, things had begun to shift.
The rise of rage as more and more Black people were getting murdered at the hands of police, and the police were having a harder time covering up their crimes.
The rise in fear and anger as more Americans with a brain and a pulse began to realize that if we continue down the path we're on as a country our democracy is doomed beyond repair.
The rise of fear, and pain and rage and sickness -- in a country that is bleeding, on a planet that is heating up and where species are dying off at an alarming pace.
I believe that even if we get the pandemic under control, we will not be able to go back to the way we all lived before -- and that to do so would be absolute folly.
I believe that no matter what comes next, we are seeing the beginning of the end of the Anthropecene Age.
This is bigger than Judaism, bigger than all the isms in the world.
It's as big as life itself, and universal in its message.
We are living now.
One day we will all be gone.
What must we do with the time that is left to the human race?
I believe that we still need to live. We must keep living and being as fully human as possible, and to be as fully caring, nurturing and loving as we can be.
To that end, I'll still make music, and fix bicycles, and nurture relationships with the people around me.
But I will also focus more on the local, the regional. I doubt that I will resume the level of travel I enjoyed before anytime soon. As much as there are still parts of the country and the world that I'd like to see, I have serious doubts that I will see most of them in my lifetime.
The medical and ecological math, the logistics, the sense of it all, just don't add up for me anymore.
Flying will become a very rare thing, if I am able to do it at all.
Taking a bus may become possible again, but not for many months at least.
We are facing a time ahead when we will be called to consider each and every choice we used to take for granted, and to make that choice through a new lens, one without filters or denial.
One of the things we will be required to consider is how we will deal with our mortality.
We will be asked to stop living in denial of our deaths.
We will be required to consider that everything we do is something that one day we won't do anymore.
And we will need to devote a great deal of time, energy and space to preparing for the time when we leave this world in our human form.
Judaism can give us some clues about how to do all of this with as much grace as possible.
But in the end, each of us will have to answer this demand for ourselves and our loved ones.
I'm not being morbid here; I'm not even sad about it.
Death is part of life.
It always has been, though we've spent a lot of time and money trying to evade that.
And we need to make it a part of life again in every thing we do, in order for our lives to have the greatest, deepest meaning.
I have been living with this line of thinking for quite awhile, since before I wrote the song "The Watchman's Chair."
I'll still keep living, but with a new understanding and dedication to the truth of my eventual death. And I will look for ways I can make what I do help others to come to terms with this reality in ways that may be scary but which can also be fulfilling, healing, and maybe even beautiful.
Death is as miraculous as life.
Understanding that may help us to see even greater meaning in the living we still have to do.
I'm still working on songs.
I'm still fixing bicycles.
I'm still playing drums, nearly every day.
I'm fine. My health is reasonably good, steady state and all that.
I'm not planning to go anywhere anytime soon.
But in the meantime, I'm making space to develop a new way forward with this different life, and with whatever it may mean for me and those around me.
Wishing you all a Shavua Tov -- a good week.
Stay tuned. I think things will only get more interesting.