Sundial Park: An example of Consistent Histories and why Ben can’t kill Widmore (yet)

I’d like to give my view on the consistent histories theory of time travel that is occurring in Lost, and why Ben can’t kill Widmore (and a few other similar cases).

First off, a definition of the consistent histories theory from Stephen Hawkings’ book:
The consistent histories approach basically states that you could not go back in time unless history showed that you had already arrived in the past and not committed any acts that would conflict with your current situation in the present.

Ok — so what that means to me is, if you go back in time and do something, the result(s) of your action(s) will be apparent in the present time you left from, even before you left on your time travel expedition.
You MUST perform these actions, because the timeline demands it.

The Sundial Park example:
So, as an example, let’s say in Sundial Park there is a small manmade pond that has been there for many years. In 1975, a girl named Joan, 10 years old, is climbing an old oak in Sundial Park and falls. She lands unharmed in the pond.

Jump to 2005. Joan learns a highly specialized field of study in genetics and botany from the foremost expert in the field, her 50 year old mentor, Dr. Green. The field of study is genetic manipulation of certain types of plants. Joan is 30.

Jump to 2006. Joan’s boss Mr. Morris buys Sundial Park and closes it to the public. In 2007, Mr. Morris sends Joan alone to a secret dig site in Sundial Park to excavate valuable minerals containing unique plant fossils. While there, Joan strikes a pocket of electromagnetism that sends her back to 1850. She is in the same physical location (Sundial Park), but it is a complete wilderness. Luckily, she has tools with her (guess they came along), including a saw and shovel.

Joan cuts down trees and digs a foundation for a log cabin to protect her from the elements. During this time, Joan spots a rare plant with potential curative properties. However, this plant is dying of a fungus disease. It is the last plant of its kind. Utilizing her skills learned from Dr. Green’s mentoring, Joan spends 2 years cultivating another strand of the plant that is immune to the fungus. She succeeds and starts a small garden of these plants.

Then, in 1852, while digging, she strikes another pocket of electromagnetism that sends her back to 2007.

Between 1852 and 1900, her cabin deteriorates and disappears altogether, but the hole remains, becoming the man-made pond in Sundial Park that will save her life when she is 10 years old.

The plant she saved is discovered in 1920 during the opening of Sundial Park and the plant’s properties are used to cure several diseases and save hundreds of thousands of lives across the globe between 1925-1930. It is utilized as a preventive treatment for 50 years more until a synthetic replaces it.

So what does this mean and how does it relate to Lost? Determinism.

Expanding on the same example.

There are several things that must occur for Joan to save the plant from the fungus and build the garden so it can be discovered and thereby save hundreds of thousands of lives

– she must go back in time and find the plant before it dies off
– she must have genetics training from Dr. Green
– she must go back in time and create the hole that will eventually become the pond that saves her life from the fall from the oak
– Mr. Morris must buy the Sundial Park and close it to the public
– Joan must be sent to the secret excavation site by Mr. Morris

Now, with all of this in mind — the lives of those saved by Joan’s actions have already been saved. What happened, happened. There is no changing that. Those people survived because of the genetically modified plant, and their kin were born and lived and did things in the world, etc.

So — let’s see how the “time loop” affects the “constants” in the Sundial Park example:

Dr. Green:
In 1990, Dr. Green, who is depressed, tries to shoot himself. He has the freewill to make this choice. But the gun does not go off. Even after several tries. He tried to jump off a bridge, but there is a car accident beside him that stops him from jumping.


Because Dr. Green cannot die — not until he trains Joan in 2005. What happened, happened.

Mr. Morris:
In 1995, Mr. Morris betrays his associates. In retaliation, they attempt to kill him. Every attempt fails, regardless of how perfect the plan is. Something always goes wrong. Mr. Morris seems invincible.


Because Mr. Morris must buy Sundial Park in 2006 and he must send Joan to excavate in 2007. He has to be alive for that. Until then, what happened, happened.
After 2007, all bets are off for Mr. Morris.


So to close the loop and relate this to Lost:

Think of Dr. Green as Michael.
In terms of Michael: he could not kill himself until the island was “done with him”. Using the example above, he had to fulfill his role in the time loop before he could die.

The same is for Jack (trying to jump of the bridge). Until the island is done with him (until his role in Whatever Happened, Happened is complete), he cannot die.

Think of Mr. Morris as Widmore:
In terms of Widmore — for some reason, perhaps a betrayal by Widmore — Ben probably tried to kill him on the island but could not succeed. Eventually he and Richard realized what was going on, and excommunicated Widmore from the Others and sent him off the island. This is why Ben makes the statement to Widmore “I can’t kill you”. At that time, Widmore had not finished his role in Whatever Happened, Happened, so he couldn’t (can’t) die. Yet.

I like to think of it as a rope with knots in it where the rope represents linear time and the knot the binding event for the relevant character. Each character that is a constant in the time loop is bound by certain restrictions. Michael was bound until he did whatever it was he had to do, and then it was OK for him to die. So on the rope, he reached his ‘knot’ in time, and then was released from Determinism and was free. Unfortunately for him, this meant a quick death.

Finally — does this theory play into Jacob and Nemesis not being able to kill each other? It may, but I’m not sure how. Their relationship seems more complicated….

I realize there may be gaps in the details, but hopefully the overall holds up. And hopefully I got all the dates straight in my example, it’s a little late at night to review this in detail…

If you are interested in how I think the ALT fits into this, I wrote a recent theory on that (Duality — a few days ago)…

And the beauty of this is: once again, Lost pulls of the duality theme. They have free will and determinism in existence at the same time.

Thanks for reading.

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The views of space and time that I wish to lay before you have sprung from the soil of experimental physics, and therein lies their strength. They are radical. Henceforth space by itself and time by itself are doomed to fade away into mere shadows, and only a kind of union of the two will preserve an independent reality. Hermann Minkowski

7 thoughts on “Sundial Park: An example of Consistent Histories and why Ben can’t kill Widmore (yet)

  1. Yep. I agree. This got me thinking about the cabin – and how if you know you can’t kill someone because of determinism, maybe you think you can lock someone up, put them out of the picture, prevent them from reaching their “knot” without actually breaking “the rules”. A loophole.

    Then I started thinking – does it have to be one particular person that reaches a “knot”? For example: If it’s the event that is important, could Michael (if he would have known his “fate” of blowing up) – convinced an ‘unimportant to the timeline’ freighter crew member to keep freezing the C4 while he escaped and lived?

  2. Brillant theory, I have often felt that characters who have died, died for a very important reason. It always seemed that their mission needed completion before they could die. Eko death seemed to be connected to his brothers arrival on the Island, libby death seemed came shortly before the beach picnic with Hurley. I’m sure there are others but II think you’re on to something here.

  3. Forgive me for nitpicking, but you meant to write Joan was 40 instead of 30.

    There is something important that you don’t really point out. The Sundial Park example never states that Joan or any other party is aware of the time travel and the effects it has on the world until after it all happened (though Joan may have realized it before she made it back to the future). This example then has nothing to do with free will, because the observer parties involved never knew any better. There does seem to be a revelation of this matter in the Lost universe, though. Ben, Widmore, Jacob, MIB and more seem to be aware of a final event that has to happen, so the element of free will is at play.

    Great post, in any case. Sorry for again for nitpicking 🙂

  4. This makes sense only if you accept the fact that time is not linear. If time is linear, then it makes no sense–there had to be a time when in 1850 Joan wasn’t born yet, so how could she have gone back to discover the plant and dig the hole? The whole thing is a loop and only makes sense if you believe that all time exists concurrently and everything always happened at once, right?

  5. @hansohattori Very good comment. A few of them seem to be in on the secret of why the hell all of this is happening. MIB is in on it as he is black smoke ie Course Correcting/Fate/God, however you want to see it.

    The others you mention (Widmore, Ben, Jacob) are in on it as they are the ones trying to change the course of event(s), that endanger all those we love. So they must know of something that happened/will happen (immaterial due to time travel) of an apocalyptic nature.

    Very Terminator-esque.

    The thing is, they are keeping Jacob and Mib’s storylines close to their chest, perhaps in the penultimate episode “What They Died For”

    There is a mixed feeling of excitement and depression overcoming me because Lost is ending!! Its such phenomenon this movie/tv entertainment industry! When they get it right, its as special as real-life itself.

  6. I do think Ben knows more than he is letting on, I could see him coming through with a plan or some knowledge anytime now.

    nice explanations of events. I am believing we are seeing a loop and I never thought the before

  7. Thanks for the comments.

    @Scrolllock – the way I understand the physics behind this type of time travel, anything (freewill) can happen once the individual in the “time loop” (or perhaps “time lock” is a better term) has fulfilled whatever it is he/she had to do and frees himself/herself from the “time loop”. So, if Michael fulfilled that before the freighter blew, then theoretically yes he could have done what you said. But if he had to die to complete his time loop, than he was basically done for…

    @Deadgolf – yes, it does seem to reinforce the meaning behind each of the major characters deaths,; as if there was something each of them needed to complete before ‘moving on’…

    @Hanso – I agree. It definitely seems like there are some that are aware of the circumstances, but have not let on. Also thanks for pointing out the 40 (surprised that’s the only error I made last night)…

    @imc – yes, I believe you are correct. Time has to be viewed as a non-linear concept for this to be possible.

    @nachochris – glad you mentioned course correction. I think course correction is a way that determinism ensures that these time loops are fulfilled – if someone tries to get off course, he/she has his/her “course corrected”…

    @jdw – yes, I think Ben knows more than he is letting on…. we’ll see!

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