It occurred to me that the compass which John and Richard pass back and forth has no real origin. I wasn’t sure if I had just missed something so I checked it out on Lostpedia and they seem to have the same conclusion. A friend of mine suggested that it was the compass Locke had when he came to the island but as I recall he gave that compass to Sayid.
So the series of events for the compass would be: Alpert gives the compass to Locke in the future, John jumps back in time and gives the compass back to Alpert who holds onto it until he sees John during his flashes and gives it back to him… ad infinitum. The fact that an object can exist without any real origins and continue to loop through time suggest that the same could be true of characters and events.
Faraday is a good example of this. If we start chronologically, Faraday first encounters his mother in the 1950s during “Jughead.” They have a brief interaction and then he jumps, apparently vanishing before her eyes. The next time they meet is in the 70s when Ellie shoots her time traveling son. Before he dies, he tells her that he is her son, and that she knew he was going to die when she sent him back. Ellie takes his notebook which she uses to help the Losties in their scheme to detonate Jughead. Then we see young Daniel playing piano and his mother urging him to spend his time and energy on his studies, because she knows that he must become a scientist.
In effect, the entire childhood of Daniel (and even into his adult years) is forged by his mother, because she read his notebook which he brought back in time. So in a sense, the man that Faraday becomes, determines the man that he will become. LOST yet? This is just one example of how we can apply the paradox of the compass to the characters and timeline.