Instrumental Flute Era

There was an episode of Rick and Morty in which the father character is engaging in his hobby—beekeeping—and he’s being watched by his daughter’s friend who says, her interest growing as she speaks, “Look at your dad, such a dork, keeping bees. At least it’s interesting though. I always like, I wish my dad kept bees, I mean it’s kind of cute…like, your dad keeps bees. How old is your dad? He’s obviously bee-keeping age. I dunno, I think it’s kind of sweet.”

She then goes on to…let’s say express still-deeper appreciation of the dorky, beekeeping dad.

The concept of someone being of “beekeeping age” has gone on to become a meme that typically refers to middle-aged folks who are doing their own thing (engaging in their own quirky hobbies, perhaps), but doing it for themselves rather than caring what anyone else thinks (and through the lens of this concept, that’s considered to be attractive).

This meme came to mind when I listened to a new album by André 3000, a performer probably best known for his time with hip hop-duo Outkast, which released a string of hits back in the early-2000s.

André 3000 is 48-years-old, and though he’s done some solo performing since the breakup of Outkast in 2007, it’s mostly been along the same lines as his previous work: upbeat rap and hip hop.

His new album (his first in 17 years) is entitled New Blue Sun, is an 87-minute collection of instrumental flute performances, and is great—I loved it, and it would seem that much of the music industry feels the same.

The album is lovely, especially if, like me, you enjoy listening to ambience-rich instrumental music while working.

But part of what’s so satisfying about this new album is that the artist behind it clearly struggled with whether or not to pursue this path; the first track is called “I Swear, I Really Wanted to Make a ‘Rap’ Album but This Is Literally the Way the Wind Blew Me This Time” (and the other track titles are equally unusual but illustrative).

Ultimately, though, despite those doubts and concerns about what other people might think, he decided to just do it.

Who cares that he’s the “Hey Ya,” “Sorry Mrs. Jackson,” “So Fresh, So Clean” guy? He’s really into flute right now and he’s going to make flute music because that’s where he’s at.

I think everyone deserves to have their own Instrumental Flute Era: a period in which they feel comfortable pursuing whatever weird, them-specific thing they want to pursue, and to do so brazenly, throwing their whole selves into whatever beekeeping, flute-playing endeavor is right for them (and maybe only them) at that moment.

It also seems ideal to be capable of tapping into this kind of energy whatever age we happen to be.

I tend to associate this approach to life with post-child-rearing-aged people in their 70s and 80s, as I think that’s the age-range at which we’re most likely to have gotten past the nonsense we use as excuses for not pursuing certain goals, gesturing at social pressures, reputational dings, and pigeon-holing-related concerns to justify reorienting ourselves toward more mainstream acceptable (and desirable) ambitions, instead.

If we could spend more of our lives either fully immersed in this sort of era, or weaving in and out of it (depending on the other priorities and responsibilities shaping how we spend our time, energy, and resources), I suspect we’d collectively enjoy (and be challenged by) a lot more interesting work of all shapes and sizes, but would also individually benefit from embracing the odd-shaped aspects of ourselves, no longer allowing external pressures (real or imagined) to dictate how we spend our time and determine what outcomes we prioritize.

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