Thinking about the meaning of life is inherently an exercise of reason. Follow this path logically and you will find that problems in life aren't - ultimately. In other words, losing and failing are only problems insofar as you think they are. Logical enough, but I claim with no small degree of hubris that the nihilist inadvertently teaches us about ourselves.
I happen to believe that goodness, strength, and justice are aligned with truth and that, therefore, where there is unhappiness there is falsehood. But even disregarding nihilists' famous contentedness, is it not reasonable to consider how the terms loss and failure came into man's possession in the first place?
A rational being, of course, is completely rational, since any trace of irrationality spoils a mind as a drop of KCN spoils a glass of orange juice. An irrational being using logic to understand himself is much like a mortal being sipping the poisoned juice for immortality - not only is the goal impossible to achieve, but the means are slightly counterproductive.
Let us recognize that man, being mortal, inevitably bridges the is-ought gap by action; as previously noted, tender reader, there is no other way.
Paradise, forever in duration and perfect in harmony, is that which should be. Since perfection is immortal and time is disharmony, the passage of time is the manifestation of disorder. That which is immortal does not experience time. Were its effects not disorderly by nature, time could not be experienced at all.
Disharmony, which - like time - presupposes competing agents, is not only in which man acts but also through which man acts. Put differently, man's action is as inevitable as it is inherently social. Our maître à penser expounds:
If the causes of the origins of society are posed as a problem, it is obviously assumed that there was a human era before society; but this is precisely what needs to be proved.
Doubtless it will not be denied that the earth as a whole is intended for man's habitation; now, as the multiplication of man is part of the Creator's intentions, it follows that the nature of man is to be united in great societies over the whole surface of the globe. For the nature of a being is to exist as the Creator has willed it. And this will is made perfectly plain by the facts.
The isolated man is therefore by no means the man of nature. When a handful of men were scattered over vast territories, humanity was not what it was to become.
Let me assume that someone manages to prove that an American savage is happier and less vicious than a civilized man. Could it be concluded from this that the latter is a degraded being or, if you like, further from nature than the former? Not at all. This is just like saying that the nature of the individual man is to remain a child because at that age he is free from the vices and misfortunes that will beset him in his maturity. History continually shows us men joined together in more or less numerous societies, ruled by different sovereignties. Once they have multiplied beyond a certain point, they cannot exist in any other fashion.
Thus, properly speaking, there has never been a time previous to society for man, because, before the formations of political societies, man was not a complete man, and because it is ridiculous to seek the characteristics of any being whatever in the embryo of that being.
Thus society is not the work of man, but the immediate result of the will of the Creator who has willed that man should be what he has always and everywhere been.
Much has been written about the relationship between religion and science, but this riddle, like most posed by the profoundly misguided thinkers of our modern age, is a fabrication, for there could not be one without the other, as there could not be man without woman. That is to say that faith and reason are not only distinguishable by their natures, but are defined by how their differing natures interact most directly and intimately with each other.
That all men are religious is indisputable, but the man who recognizes his religion as an experience of faith does not mock himself in the eyes of his Creator by unwittingly worshipping the alleged logic of science.
Man must believe as a matter of being and he must reason as a matter of doing. Reasoning is through which man acts, but he who attributes knowledge to reason worships himself by thinking his own mind is a cause. As our maître à penser reminds us in words that every philosophy professor worthy of his title praises:
What is this moment of incredible blindness? The entropic effects of reason accelerate as time passes and, since man exists across time, all he observes is effect. By believing in Him man aligns himself with the only cause that can be. Our maître à penser reminds us:
The essence of all intelligence is to know and to love. The limits of knowledge are those of its nature. The immortal being learns nothing: he knows by nature everything he should know. On the other side, no intelligent being can love the bad naturally or by virtue of his nature; for this to be so, it would be necessary for God to have created man evil, which is impossible. If then man is subject to ignorance or evil, this can be only by virtue of some accidental degradation, which can be only the consequence of a crime. The need, the hunger for knowledge, which stirs man, is nothing but the natural tendency of his being that carries him toward his primitive state and shows him what he is.
This hunger for knowledge is fundamentally different from the reason man inadvertently exercises in his actions, albeit man can rid himself of intentional reasoning no more easily than his evil proclivities, as both stem from his nature. Nevertheless, let us define two types of reason by fiat to get at the issue at hand.
Positive reason is used with respect to that which is; it is used unwittingly, humbly in order to do what one ought to do; reason is likely used more positively the less one is aware he is using it.
Normative reason is used with respect to that which should be; it is used intentionally, selfishly in order to assess what one ought to do; reason is likely used more normatively the more one is aware he is using it.
Rebellion is intrinsically an act of normative reason. Subjects, citizens, children, employees, slaves and subordinates rebel against authority for reasons of what they believe ought to be. Fear not, tender reader, for since the arc of the universe is long but bends towards justice, there is no insurrection so noble, good, or right that its full consequences are not eventually disorderly, which helps us understand why our maître à penser teaches:
Normative reason is to time as frowning is to the mouth, since sans time there would be no reasoning just as without a mouth one cannot frown. The perfect smile would have no use for time and would be permanent, just as the immortal man would have no use for reason and would be faith.
Perfect order is permanent by definition and the immortal being does not reason because he cannot. Without time there is no place for reason. Human action is orderly to the extent that his reason is subservient to his belief, which is the degree to which he reasons positively. If reason could be used only positively it could not be used at all, which is why the total submission of reason to belief is impossible or at least as plausible as the total submission of man to his mortal ruler. Man eventually rebels, as is his nature, but he cannot eradicate sovereignty. In this way all human reason is normative in the eyes of the Creator, but to the extent that man minimizes its normative use, he likely acts in a more orderly manner.
Let's dig a bit deeper. Kipling:
If you can meet with Triumph and Disaster / and treat those two impostors just the same
By fulfilling Kipling's call to exercise wuwei, man smiles, frowns, and reasons without intention, but unwittingly if at all and instead:
[...] fill[s] the unforgiving minute with sixty seconds’ worth of distance run
This is highest virtue - the path of greatest order.
Trying to use reason to understand, define, justify the meaning of life is the most fully normative use of reason man is capable of. Let us call this phenomenon self-contemplation. Self-contemplation is to reasoning as rebellion is to action - both are inevitable, but disorderly. Since it is thus a most brazen rebellion against Him, we should not be surprised that self-contemplation is inherently futile and counterproductive.
The immortal cannot believe because he understands all (as one should expect given that all which is immortal exists in paradise, where all that is should be) and this is why he encounters no is-ought gap. For we mere mortals, however, normative reason occupies space intended for faith - the ought side of our everlasting is-ought gap. The more we focus on that which is, isolating the corrosive effects of reason, the less diluted are our dogmas, the more acute is our understanding, the less impaired are our efforts. In this way, we may align ourselves with the Author of order, as our maître à penser explains:
But when man works to restore order, he associates himself with the author of order; he is favored by nature, that is to say, by the combined working of secondary forces, which are the agents of the Divinity. His action has something divine in it; it is both gentle and authoritative; it forces nothing yet nothing resists it; in carrying out its plans, it restores to health; as it acts, so is calmed that disquiet and painful agitation which are the effect and the symptom of disorder; just as men know that a skillful doctor has put back a dislocated joint by the cessation of pain....
Order is good, right, and just. Try to reason your way to purpose and find your powers constricted, your efforts wasted. Denying that man's thought cannot bridge his everlasting is-ought gap, self-contemplation inherently renders greater disorderly effects.
Doing that which one should is intrinsically orderly. Man derives meaning from life not by self-contemplation but by the experience of acting in an orderly manner. Since order is of Him, it is the true and only path.