This was commented on most famously by Nietzsche
and it says that the striving for distinction
causes us to always look to other people and wonder (the height of vanity
, disguised as empathy
) what he is thinking (but really what he is thinking of us). It says that while it is a sweet thing to know we bring cheer
to this other person and make them feel that warm fuzzy feeling
, what we truly, innate
is to know that we impressed ourselves upon his soul
, that we changed him
and ruled over him as we pleased
The striving for distinction is the striving for domination over this other man, yet it is a very subtle domination and only felt or dreamed. It brings with it "torment, then blows, then envy, then admiration, then elevation, then joy, then cheerfulness, then laughter, then derision, then mockery, then ridicule, then giving blows, then imposing torment" for that next man indeed, and all the while we stand there feeling the greatest joy, not particularly stopping to realise that in each of us is this striving for distinction, and that in the next moment, it might be we who stand there being ridiculed as a result of another man's drive.
The most absurd part of it is that the drive for distinction results in there being but one character burning and consuming himself (ourself). Yet in both cases there is "an unspeakable happiness at the sight of torment!"